Empow-her: Alumna Works to Build Stronger, More Connected Communities

From a young age, Alexis Drickel ’17 MBA has been a go-getter. She was always one of the first to raise her hand in class or try new things, purely because of her passion for learning. Early on, Drickel realized that her ambition was often seen as a negative thing. People would say, “Oh, there she goes again — why is she trying to do all these things?”

But over the years, Drickel noticed that not a single male she talked to felt negative connotations towards their ambition — they were never asked those same questions. So why was she?

“It sparked a passion and anger inside of me that made me want to do more,” Drickel says. So when she joined Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management to get her MBA, with a concentration in marketing, she became a part of Whitman Women in Business. Through social events and workshops, the organization aims to build a workforce of strong women leaders.

But Drickel’s passion for empowerment and inclusivity isn’t just limited to raising women up. In fact, the student group that had the largest impact on her Whitman experience was the Graduate Student Organization, which she ended up leading her second year. It gave Drickel not only a chance to give back to a school that she loved learning in, but also to build a community for the graduate students who were of different ages and came from so many different backgrounds, countries and cultures.

Building stronger, more connected communities is something that Drickel continues to do through her current role as a learning manager at PetSmart. As part of the human resources team, Drickel is responsible for training new hires, as well as conducting e-learning classes and distributing other educational materials, both for the corporate office and individual stores.

“We’re building out the strategy and thought that everyone belongs at PetSmart,” Drickel shares. 

PetSmart has a Women’s Group, Pride Group and Multicultural Group, among others. Drickel even got the chance to help organize a new event the Women’s Group was sponsoring: Engaging Men in the Movement, in which a male senior vice president and sponsor of the group discussed what it’s like to be a man involved with women empowerment and how other men can combat internal biases and support women they work with.

Drickel interned with PetSmart while pursuing her MBA, and the positivity of all the associates, the company’s strong, innovative vision and an incredibly supportive boss and mentor made it a no-brainer when the time came for her to accept a full-time offer. “I go to work every single day, and I laugh a lot, I work hard, I’m learning,” Drickel shares.

And since company culture and fit is so crucial, Drickel encourages students who are searching for jobs and internships to be really pointed with the questions they ask during interviews. Instead of just asking, “What’s the company’s culture like?” focus on what’s important to you — whether that’s a work from home policy, flexible hours, how collaborative teams are or whether teams spend time together outside of work.

It’s also helpful to learn about what a career path at the company looks like and what could potentially lie beyond the role you’re seeking, Drickel says.

Most importantly, she urges students to be open to companies and locations they haven’t considered. She moved across the country to Phoenix, Arizona, after joining PetSmart, and while it was the hardest thing she’s ever done, Drickel also shares that it resulted in tremendous personal growth.

Even though she gets to pursue her passion for empowerment through her full-time role at PetSmart, Drickel is also on the board for the Network of Executive Women (NEW), a national nonprofit that believes the advancement of all women is simply good business.

Organizations like NEW are so important for women in business because they’re safe networks that encourage candid conversations and champion the next wave of young female professionals, Drickel says. “As many strides as women have made in the past, we still have a long way to go,” she adds. “It’s so important to have a group of women to remind folks that we’re not done there yet.”

Learn more about Whitman alumni in the latest alumni profiles.

Sandhya Iyer